A Short Story: Laureate of an American Lowlife

A short story dedicated to the life of Charles Bukowski. Based on the following writing prompt: Strangers at a bus stop, trying to mind their business, are persistently engaged with by a chatty, seemingly homeless, man.

The ridicule that came alongside refusing to follow the values which society held was what demoralised him. He didn’t mind the fact that he was different to those who surrounded him, but he did mind the fact that there was little justice for the creative; there was no stability or safety for the ones who were deemed to be weaker.

He spent most of his lifetime expecting to be adored, with smiles in his direction and hats tipped towards him as he graced the streets, but little did he know that his only friendship would be with a bottle; occasionally, a decrepit typewriter. He didn’t see the problem with drinking. If something bad happens, you drink to forget; if something good happens, you drink to celebrate; and if nothing happens, you drink to make something happen. Whilst sobriety coats his mind for a little while longer, he wonders if that’s how he got here – finding his only solace at a cramped, communal waiting area. Things were bad and really, they were boring. As much as he tried to form an ordinary life and earn an unremarkable wage, there was no comfort to be sought out in the routine nine to five.

Many regulars were confused by his placement. He was never without a bottle and never in his life had he thought to groom his face or his hair. His shirt nipped at his armpits whilst revealing the underneath of his ample stomach – presumably from all the bottle-contents he happened to consume during his rounds of people watching. Many found his face hard to look at, bulbous and grotesque; some found him comparable to the Hunch Back of Notre Dame. He begged to differ. He thought that he was handsome, a treat to every lady that saw him. They all desired him, but this was only after he’d had his third bottle.

He never boarded the bus, but he still chose to stand around for hours on end making pathetic and occasionally resentful chatter when he had the chance. They all thought he was entirely demented, but little did they know that they were speaking with a genius. A respectable man; that’s what he thought.

“You all just blindly grab at whatever there is!”

This wasn’t uncommon. Something was brewing inside of him that wanted to escape. Whilst a few would hope he’d stop wandering and leave, many knew that this was the start of his usual ‘fuck you’ to the world. Particularly those who stared him down up until this point, wondering why this filth wasn’t eradicated already.

“Communism, health foods, zen, surfing, ballet, hypnotism, group encounters, orgies, biking, herbs, Catholicism, weight-lifting, travel, withdrawal, vegetarianism, India, painting, writing, sculpting, composing, conducting, backpacking, yoga, copulating, gambling, drinking, hanging around, frozen yogurt, Beethoven, Buddha, Christ, carrot juice, suicide, handmade suits, jet travel, New York City, and then it all evaporates and falls apart. People must find things to do while waiting to die! I guess it was nice of me to have a choice!”

Nothing out of the ordinary. After his first bottle, bitterness consumed him once again. His art was his craft, and nobody appreciated him then – as a failing writer – and nobody had a care in the world for him now, as the maniacal preacher. He found this to be his fuel, the fire in his loins that graced him during these outbursts and the reactions he summoned motivated him. Fear was evoked in many of the women surrounding him, just wishing to make their way to work on time. The stares weren’t enough to make him leave but rather, enough to make him want more stimulation.

“Your eyes – they’re beautiful. They’re wild, crazy, like some animal peering out of a forest on fire.”

This was the first time he’d warmed up to a lady in a few days which seemed to be a surprise to those who where regular to the stop. He frequented the women with aimless flattery most mornings and many evenings, none of which was ever reciprocated. These compliments shrouded in fakery where the only times that he softened his voice. He hated women. He didn’t want to, but they didn’t like him, so he hated them. Just as much as he hated everything else.

Nobody knew that once upon a time, his antics and deliberate clownish performances had once made him the king of an underground scene where ladies worshipped his words and men wished to bow down to him. He was a loyal man and up until his presence had been forgotten and his art form failed. He was a cordial man.

Now, all that he did was act as litter to a public space and persist that those who dared look at him were subordinate. He found them to be fools for not having a literary appreciation and even more so for not wishing to hear his poems or lyricisms.

“Oh, what! You don’t like the word cunt?”

Perhaps his most vile outburst to the crowd that gathered, nobody quite understood the gritty, darkened truth behind his magic. Nor did he, anymore.

Little did they know that he resided in a shed with his few clothes, his empty wine bottles and typewriter. He had a bed, not habitable by a human but fit for a monster. As his career went down in flames, his passion for alcohol soared with it. Everything that came from his mind was in a disarray, cluttered with profanities and vexation – the commoners at the bus stop didn’t want to hear it and neither did L.A. anymore. The underground had no time for him and whilst he looked for his ammunition from a bottle at a local bus stop each day, he remained an outsider.

Who would want to be such an asshole?

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